Hitting the ground running: an introduction to Arizona’s copper belt

July 16, 2013 • Pete Dronkers

“We’re going underground now,” Mark said as the truck neared a landmark on a hillside.  It marked the beginning of what might eventually be a waste rock dump at least 600 feet tall from the proposed Rosemont open pit copper mine in southeastern Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains. The visual was striking; I could imagine the expanse of this behemoth mine, with its dump stretching miles from one side to the other, covering the mountainside and its foothills, and the habitat of everything that had ever lived there. Included in the fallout zone was a once-productive ranch house, with corrals, water tanks, and trees – the ingredients for a sustainable, renewable economy.  I was told that Augusta Resources – the Canadian junior mining company behind the idea – had already bought out the ranch, and now it was broken, lifeless.